It’s been 10 months since my last confession… (Good thing I’m not religious!)

I haven’t been here (to write) in quite a long time.  There are multiple reasons for that really.  Reason #1 is life.  Life is busy.  Life gets crazy.  Want to dos get pushed behind the need to dos.  Once I started teaching in August, life only got busier…and I think that is about where I last left off…

In October, Laine and I got married.  If you are local and close to us, you were likely present for our special day.  Let me insert right here that we have been negligent with our “Thank You” notes, and we know this.  We admit and own it.  The thank you cards sit in a little white box on the edge of our bedroom dresser.  Staring us in the face, screaming at us to pick up a pen and write in them.  We have failed to listen.  So, to those to whom we owe a “Thank You” card, we also owe an apology.  And we mean it when we say, we have no excuse, but we are truly sorry for our failure to mail these in a timely manner.

The wedding itself was everything we planned it to be, down to every little tiny detail.  We each wrote our own vows, we committed ourselves to one another and to our family, we danced, we laughed, we cried (happy) tears.  I could not have hoped for anything differently…except I do wish we would have included a videographer so we could relive the day whenever we wanted to.  Fortunately, our photography turned out wonderfully and we will always have that to remember the day.  We took time to travel after the wedding, spending a night in Palm Springs and then multiple days in Huntington Beach.  We watched the sunset, took late night walks on the beach, roasted s’mores, discovered the local acai bowl shop, and just enjoyed the time together with no interruptions or responsibilities.

Then we returned to reality…and that goes something like this…

One thing they don’t tell you when you start teaching, it is NOT an 8-3 job like everyone perceives it to be.  The hours of 8-3 are just the hours you have 24 little shining faces under foot.  The other work has to be done outside of that window, to prepare for those hours.  Lesson planning, materials prep, professional development, conferences, emails, etc., etc., etc.  I come home each evening exhausted.  I want to grab a glass of wine and put my feet up.  Oh wait, there isn’t quite time for that!  By the time dinner is prepared and served, the kitchen is cleaned up, the girls are bathed, read to and in bed, its 8pm. Which then begins homework time.  For me.  Yes, in order to be a teacher, I had to take on more school for myself.  My BA in psych holds me over with the state on a temp basis, as long as I am in the program to obtain my early childhood education certification.  I started this 2-year program in January 2017, at which time I converted from long term sub to fully contracted teacher.  Fortunately, my classes are online and I can do them from home in the evening, sometimes in a zombie like state after being in the classroom with 24 5/6 year olds all day.  Truth is, even with as draining as it is, and as much work as it takes on a daily basis…summer break is killing me!!!  I want to be back in the classroom.  A week or two of a break was great.  After that I started hitting a wall.  I thrive on the fast-paced environment of the Kindergarten classroom.  I enjoy the ins and outs of each and every day. I miss the morning hugs and hi fives from 24 little humans, watching their light bulbs brighten when they learn something new, talking them through a problem when life just seems too tough to handle (“Yes, I know it hurt your feelings that he broke your blue crayon.  How can we fix this situation?”) and I can’t wait for summer to be over so I can meet my next group of kiddos and start all over.  I am in love with my job, and I never thought in my life I would ever say that.  Even on the hard days, and yes there are some really hard days, I know whole heartedly that this is what I am supposed to be doing.  If you know anything about the education system in AZ, you know I am not in love with the paycheck, or sometimes even the requirements handed down from above, but that is not what drives me.  It is the kids, the ever-changing environment, the unpredictability of each and every day, the laughter and the learning that goes on.  Those kids which need the most love wrap themselves around my heart and tug at me the hardest.  My school community makes me happy.  I keep seeing a t-shirt online (which I need to purchase!!) that says “I wanted to change the world, so I became a Kindergarten teacher!”  If you know me at all, you know this quote was written for me.

Now the part that I struggle writing about.  The part that originally brought you all here in the beginning.  Transition.  I struggle because to me, there seems to be nothing TO write.  Transition no longer runs our lives.  It isn’t the center of our world.  It doesn’t dictate our scheduling.  We are no longer running our calendar around surgeries.  It has stopped defining us as a couple, we appear as a heterosexual normative couple to the naked eye. Transition now occupies about 2 minutes of our Thursday mornings, long enough to draw up and inject the weekly shot.  For Laine, it is doctor check ins every 3-6 months and blood donation every 8 weeks to avoid too many red blood cells.  He continues to visit his therapist on a routine basis as well, just to make sure things are steady.  There are still a few surprises here or there like the increasing growth of facial hair which we were beginning to think might never show up.  Or the constant redistribution of body structure; just when you think it has settled where it is going to stay, the chest and shoulders thicken just a bit more and that t-shirt is just a little bit tighter.

Laine uses his personal experience as a way to educate others.  He is heavily involved in his work place in diversity conversations.  He tells his story often.  He talks about this journey to groups large and small.  He talks face to face and on conference calls.  It never fails at the end of one of these conversation days, he arrives home and tells me about someone who shared their own story with him.  Or someone who connected to his story because they know someone, or they are someone who…all it takes is an open and honest conversation.  We all have a story.

The rest of life is just life, not transition, so I feel as if I have little to say, expect that we are no different than any other couple.  We go to work, we come home and take care of household tasks and chores, we raise our family, we travel, we shop, we dine out, we watch TV, and we do it all as husband and wife.  When we meet new people, we don’t introduce ourselves as “Melanie and my transgender husband Laine.”  This in some ways is another struggle.  How much do people need to know?  We had this discussion a few nights back about hanging out with other couples and expanding a social circle.  Ours is quite small to be honest. We have many acquaintances and many who know about us, but few which we are actually close to. If we invite people into our home, our digital photo frame which sits near the front door plays our journey in photographs.  From the beginning.  For us, we look back and “remember when” or “wow I can’t remember you then, I only see you as you now.”  But for someone who doesn’t know our story, are they going to question?  Do we have to tell them?  Obviously full disclosure is not an issue for us, if it was I wouldn’t be writing on this blog read around the world.  The real struggle isn’t about us disclosing, it is about the other people, do they want or need to know? How much do we tell?  When?  Why is it even important?  Thinking through it, it isn’t necessary.  But what happens when a photograph is displayed somewhere in our home that depicts Laine early on in transition?  Or what if something is said in a conversation about growing up and childhood, a time in which Laine identified as female?  Are we supposed to clear our lives of photographs and memories pre-transition, or even from the first two years of transition when Laine looked different than he does today?  Transition doesn’t run our lives, or define who we are, however in some sneaky way it’s always hiding in the shadows I guess…

www.cyndihardy.com

Princess Consuela Builds a Banana Hammock

*Yes, I borrowed the title of this blog from Friends.  If you have never seen the show.. my apologizes.  Either way, it won’t affect your ability to read this blog. 🙂

Last week I stood in the men’s underwear section of Target for approximately 23.4 minutes of my life.  That is 23.4 minutes I will never get back, but I can now tell you exactly how the fly is sewn in every brand of men’s boxer briefs that Target sells.  I’m fairly certain by the time I left, the two women monitoring the dressing rooms, which happen to be located in the men’s underwear section, were talking behind my back, convinced I have some type of fetish with men’s underwear.  I mean why else would I examine the crotch area of every style, of every brand??  I strategically opened the multipacks, slow and gentle, careful not to tear the plastic.  Unrolling, examining, re-rolling exactly as I found it and replacing the pair back in the package with its partners.  I sent Laine a text message about this experience and wrote #transmanswife because no one else in their right mind would be doing this!!!

I however was on a mission.  Laine found a Youtube video that explained how to create a packer pouch (A “packer pouch” being fabric to hold a prosthetic, life like penis in place without allowing the silicone material to rub against skin and cause irritation) by cutting open the double layers of the already existing fly, instead of wearing a separate jock strap, etc.  Problem is the underwear in the Youtube video was a pair of 1980s tighty whities and manufacturers do not sew boxer brief package pouches the same as they used to.  So I had to come up with a new plan.  In order to do so, I had to examine every brand of underwear.  By the way, Jockey cuts their fly horizontally on the inside, and this seems a bit of a nuisance to me, but I don’t have the parts necessary to test it out, so maybe the up, over, around method isn’t as bad as it sounds in my head.

I settled on a pack of Hanes, in shades of blue, his favorite color.  Hanes boxer briefs have a double layer in the fly, both the inner and outer layer opening on opposite sides.  The solution was simple and not rocket science.  Sew one side (outer) of the opening shut, so it creates a pouch that only opens on the inside of the boxers.  This creates a natural pouch for the packer to be placed into and allows it to sit very naturally in position, keeping a single layer of material between the silicone and skin.  The June Cleaver in me dug my sewing machine out of the closet and within 30 minutes had all the flies sewn shut from the outside.  This plan worked exactly as I had hoped for.

Laine has dabbled in the packing space.  Months ago he originally ordered a 3 in 1 piece, Pack, Pee and Play. (If you follow this blog you probably read about the Peacock.)  Fact is, the Peacock isn’t ideal for peeing (I mean it works, but it is such a process to make sure it is lined up correctly, your flow isn’t too fast or else you overflow down your leg, he just never got into it.)  It’s a bit large for packing (even without the rod inserted it still is quite large in “flaccid” state of being making it difficult to keep adjusted properly in his jeans.) For playing his Peacock gets 2 thumbs up, but this is a blog about packing, not playing, so I won’t elaborate on this topic.  😉

After his surgery in March, Laine decided he wanted a true packer to wear daily.  So, we got online and ordered one after comparing options.  (props to Reelmagik by the way, they make a great product and shipping was fast!!)  After a day or two of wearing his new packer, Laine decided we needed to look into the pouch to keep the prosthetic in place better and away from his skin.  Fast forward and I am standing in Target, examining men’s underwear, assumed to have an underwear fetish.

Some of you may be asking, why silicone??? Why not play in the surgical space down there???  We have talked about it.  We have researched it.  We have sat through presentations about it.  Laine just isn’t willing to go there.  And that is ok.  For every trans guy it is a personal preference.  Some don’t feel complete until they do go there.  Some can’t afford to go there (approximately $100,000.)  Some just don’t want to go there.  Laine falls in that space between “it isn’t a necessity,” “there are still so many risks associated with it” and “age does make a difference when it comes to healing.”  After his surgery in March, he was reminded he isn’t 20 anymore.  Healing is a process for the body and age does make that process slow down and take a bit longer.  The risks involved aren’t ones he is willing to take.  The process for FTM isn’t nearly as perfected as the procedure for MTF.   There is a high risk of fissures in the urethra, and although no one wants to leak for the rest of their lives, many are ok with that risk, but Laine isn’t one of them.  The process also involves large areas of skin grafts, which means risk of infection and a lot of time needed to heal the grafted area.  Laine is more than ok leaving that area below the belt alone and having the option to put it in the drawer. Top surgery next month (yes, NEXT month!!!!  It’s finally almost here!) will be his final gender related surgery that he currently has any plans for.  Granted, things could change I guess, life always throws in surprises, but at the moment I write this, this is how things stand.